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The World of Today and Black Identity

Updated on May 4, 2020

Black Identity is a broad yet contentious topic that which many have spent a great time analyzing and attempting to define something that exists beyond multiple political and physical boundaries. Many media organizations and special interest groups seek to distort and poison the image that American Americans have, and others seek to undue this. However, because of a muddied and incoherent past, this is a difficult endeavor to embark upon.

Many African American citizens know little about their extended heritage, nor where they come from in general, only that somehow through the atrocity of slavery that their ancestors were brought at some point to America’s sprawling plantations. Strangely enough though, the sheer extent of the effect that slavery and the subjugation of the African American community has had as a whole on the growth and accomplishments of America as a country have been the subject of debate in recent years. Through works such as the New York Time’s “The 1619 project”, many revelations about the true nature between America’s accomplishments and it’s “Original Sin” of slavery. Connections from slavery can be drawn from things such as income inequality, its industrial power, and even its electoral system America itself has robbed from the African American peoples more then just their lives and welfare however, it has robbed African Americans of culture, in more then one sense.


Particularly, that of popular American music in fact has been nearly completely ripped relentlessly from the pages of black artists. Nearly every genre, from Rock and Roll to Electronic music was either created directly by an African American or was in no small part influenced by one. Even the concept of improvisation as a whole was completely invented by black musicians. These genres were stolen and performed by white performers who are famous even to this day, such as Elvis Presley or the Beatles. Today, Hip-Hop, a genre created by and performed by predominantly African American musicians is one of the largest genres as a whole, however American fascination with black music goes back to the times of Blackface Minstrels .It seems that now, as it is financially profitable to do so, it has become more commonplace to see African American music being performed by African American musicians. The individual African American’s perception of their own black identity is shaped in part by both the subjugation and robbery of culture made evident in today’s popular music, but also by the otherization and mere concept of race as a whole, which has disastrous effects on both individual and black identity. The effects of this dichotomy are explored fully in Zora Neale Hurston’s “What it means to be colored me.” In this work Hurston expresses and shows the racial constructs that have been forced upon the black identity, through her experiences moving from the all African American town of Eatonville she grew up in, to the large and white city of Jacksonville. Only upon moving to the white city does she then begin to interact with the racial distinctions placed by society, and only then does she begin to recognize herself as different from the rest of the population of the world in some way.


African Americans encounter and regularly interact with this construct most viscerally, and it is here, where the robbery of credit for many facets of American life and the unstoppable tide of “otherism” begin to create what can be seen as the Black Identity. This contradiction creates a disastrous split between facets of black identity as a whole, one that persist to this day. Authors such as W.E.B Dubois noted this and sought to bridge the gap between these facets through multiple influential works. Dubois coined the concept of the “Double Consciousness”, and as noted by Henry Lewis Gates in his essay “The Black Letters on the Sign: W.E.B Dubois and the Canon”, saw the problems of America and of identity not only through a racial lense, but through that of a man.

Through no short means the contributions by an entire race to the history and popular culture of America have been ignored, covered up, and obscured. The African American race has not only had their accomplishments taken away but have been reduced to simply that, a race, a pseudo-scientific category and nothing more. This has led to a ideological split in an already subjugated people, one that through the efforts of talented men and women has been brought now to a national stage of discussion.

© 2020 Jaden Skye Crumpler

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